OU Torah Insights Project
Hashem commands Aharon to kindle the lights of the menorah in the Tabernacle, "not because I need them [for light]," the Midrash reports. "But I want you to light for Me as I lit for you" through the pillar of fire that illuminated the wilderness at night during the Jews journey to the Promised Land.
"Why?" the Midrash continues. "In order to lift you up and enhance you in the eyes of the nations, so that they will say, "Israel lights for the One who illuminates for all."
No doubt, Hashem does not require the menorah for its light, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt"l, comments. What we glean from this mitzvah, though, is a sense of indebtedness. No one wants to rely on someone else. No one wants to feel beholden. Sometimes, it can be difficult to acknowledge a favor and simply say thank you, because implicit in that is an admission that we are not as great as we make ourselves out to be.
In fact, the Hebrew word for thanks, hodaah, is rooted in the word modeh, to admit. Sometimes we are forced to concede that we need the assistance of others.
And it is a most uncomfortable feeling. How often does someone do us a great favor and upon noticing that person at a simchah, we pretend not to have caught his eye or abruptly turn and walk in the other direction? Isnt it because we dont want to feel beholden to others?
At the same time, how often have we done others favors with a wave of the hand, as if to say, "No big deal. Dont worry about it," while actually implying that it is a big deal for them to worry about? In our haughtiness, we want others to feel beholden to us.
This is what Hakadosh Baruch Hu is telling us. Does Hashem, "the One who illuminates for all," need a few candles from the menorah to give him light? Of course not. But the message is clear: we must go to extremes to make the recipients of our favors feel that they are not beholden to us.
How do we do this? By allowing them to pay us back, even if the payback is of no benefit to us, simply to remove any feelings of indebtedness.
If Hashem, to whom we are beholden for our very lives, wants us to feel that we have paid Him back, how much more so must we endeavor to remove all feelings of "I owe you" from the recipients of our favors.
All too often, parents, even elderly ones, refuse to allow their children to do them favors, for fear that they are giving up their independence. But perhaps parents should look at it from a different angle that the greatest sense of indebtedness is found in children toward their parents. Children need to feel for their own sake that they have given something back to the parents who sacrificed so much to raise them.
Why not allow them to have that beautiful feeling. And who better to learn from than the Father of all children, Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Tendler
Rabbi Tendler is rabbi at Congregation Sons of Israel in Lakewood, New Jersey.